For the past 10 years or so, I have been sorcing UHMW polyethylene from
manufacturers, packaging the pieces in assortments and selling them
through woodworking distributors like Lee Valley and Woodcraft.
I have noticed that the sales at Woodcraft don't seem to be on a
par with the sales in Canada (they're lower) and I wonder why that is.
I have some huge new supplies available of UHMW and I'm looking
to expand sales.
I have noticed that some of the other woodworking distributors
either don't sell UHMW and those that do don't seem to carry much of
I have noticed that Ebay and Amazon.com have sellers of UHMW on
My questions are - Those of you that buy UHMW, where do you get
- If you could get offcuts of UHMW at a
good price on Ebay, would you buy it there?
> My questions are - Those of you that buy UHMW, where do you get
THe same places you do.
> - If you could get offcuts of UHMW at a
> good price on Ebay, would you buy it there?
I've got at least 3 plastics distributors within 10 miles.
Be careful with Machinist Materials in Florida, they sell a lot on eBay.
I purchased 2 lots thinking that I would benefit from a consolidation of
the order into one shipment based on a cursory review of their shipping
policies. I was charged and paid $20.20 for Fedex delivery. When the
parcel arrived, I measured and weighed it before opening and then
visited Fedex's site which quoted me $14.43 -- that's withough any
discount a regular shipper may enjoy. I was under the impression I
would only be charged actual cost of shipping. I brought this
discrepancy to the attention of the proprietor and nothing more came of it.
Also I had ordered UHMW virgin 1 5/16" x 5 7/8" x 28 3/4" natural, and
it arrived in a bowed condition: 1/4" at the center over the 28" span --
this bowing/warpage was not disclosed in the offering material.
Fortunately my application did not need the entire length, so the bowing
was not a defect rendering the piece unsuable for my intended
application. Basically, if I had seen the piece live I would have
concluded it was defective -- though, in this case, it did not matter
since I was going to cut it into smaller pieces.
I inquired about an adjustment for the shipping overage and basically
was ignored. I don't have a problem with people stating a minimum
shipping charge, here I had concluded they only charge what they, in
turn, are charged and that any savings as a result of consolidating
multiple orders would accrue to my benefit. This misunderstanding
coupled with the bowed UHMW causes me to post this. The other item I
bought was as advertised. I'd probably buy from them again, but nail
down details of shipping cost and condition.
To John L Poole,
I am aware of the issues that you raised.
Regarding the shipping charge issue, it actually is fairly common that
"shipping" means "shipping and handling", ie, the shipper charges for
some of the materials and labour necessary to ship the piece. I'm not
saying it's right or wrong, just that it happens.
I had planned a sliding scale of shipping charges based on the total of
all sales, with the percentage that I cover going up with more sales.
In the beginning, I have to start on the auctions (you have to
accumulate so many points before you're allowed to open a store), so I
have planned to ask customers to notify me in our preliminary emails
after the sale if they have successfully bid on other items. I don't
know how well that's going to work, but I'll try it and see.
Regarding the bowed/warped piece. First of all (not to split hairs too
much), plastic does not warp; it bends. Bent pieces can be corrected
about 95% of the time by putting them on a flat surface at room
temperature and leaving them for a few days. Those that cannot be
brought back are defective and I would certainly see that before it was
shipped. Such a piece should not be shipped and if you got one of
those, you should have got a refund.
I put the above information in because it IS possible that the material
was bent in transit. While it is possible to strap every piece to a
hunk of wood, that's going to drive up the costs significantly,
especially if you are shipping over a border.
Most of the problems with bent materials are likely to happen with 1/4,
3/8 and 1/2" material.
I'm going to throw the subject open for discussion:
Assuming you are buying the thinner pieces, do you want to pay the
extra cost to ensure flat material stays flat? (You're probably
looking in the range of an extra $10)
I put it on a flat surface at room temperature and add a weight at the
center of the bend. Since I typically use it as a face material for a
fence or jig, most of the time I don't bother flattening prior to
attaching it to the wood. I would not pay extra.
Better yet, inform your customer of the risks and offer both services,
educating your customer as to the options and letting them make the
decision is a win-win situation, for you it should just be a matter of
setting the appropriate price/handling charge.
Did that include packaging and handling costs? You have to add those
in, you know. It costs money to put it in the box, at the very least,
plus the cost of the box itself, the labeling, etc. I have no idea
what would be reasonable in your case since I don't know anything
about the size and packaging, but you can't forget those costs as
If you're in Canada and close to one of their stores, they have
additional assortments now that are only in the stores (no mail order)
that are 4.5lb assortments with pieces that range from 16" in length to
30 -36 inches long. You may have to ask at the front counter (they
haven't put them out yet) and insist that they look if they say they
don't have it.(Some of the store people don't know that they have it
What do you guys DO with the UHMW Poly?
I've picked up my pieces from a local scrap place that buys from a
plastics distributor their left overs. But only one piece was used as
a sled runner and it is too flexible for that.
UHMW (Ultra-High Molecular Weight) Polyethylene is a very slippery
plastic that is usually used to reduce friction on sliding services
when you make jigs for woodworking. In appropriately sized pieces, it
makes good cutting boards because it does not absorb water like other
plastics do. Since it does not absorb water, it does not absorb blodd
on cutting boards, which makes them more sanitary when you wipe them
As an aside, for anybody that has ever wondered why Nylon bushings
squeak, it's because they absorb water. When they absorb water, they
expand and jam against the shaft they are on. UHMW will not absorb
water and therefore will not squeak.
Back to the lesson - UHMW is also valued by woodworkers because it
repels ALL Glues, including polycyanate and epoxy glues. I once asked
an industry expert how to glue UHMW pieces together and he replied,
"Use screws." (If you ever want to have some fun at a woodshow, take a
couple of pieces of UHMW over to those guys that claim to have a glue
that glues anything to anything and ask him to demonstrate on your
pieces. It drives them crazy.)
UHMW also has ENORMOUS crush resistance at room temperature (
approx 20 tons/square inch). So you cannot drive a nail through it
unless you drill a pilot hole, and you must drill pilot holes for all
screws or you'll snap them off. (UHMW will self thread with a pilot
UHMW does not have a lot of structural strength. If you're going
to use it as a fence for your table- or bandsaw or for your router,
either you need a really thick piece of you have to screw it to a piece
of wood of metal.
Woodworkers like UHMW because they can use all of their
woodworking tools on it and it's really soft to cut and easy on their
tools (You can literally carve it with a knife)
. Some specific cautions-
1. UHMW DOES NOT CHIP. Engrave this on your skull because it's
extremely important. If you're drilling wood, the wood normally chips.
UHNW doesn't. It tends to wrap around the spindle of the drill if
you're using a Forstner bit, so don't be surprised when it does. I
find that if you drill a bit at a time and then raise the drill bit,
you will get chips that fall away from the work area normally.
2. If you are drilling large holes with a forstner bit, you want
to move the bit through the plastic as fast as possible. If the drill
bit spends a lot of time in the plastic, the plastic will start to melt
and you will get crazing on the inside of the hole.
3. When you lathe UHMW, it does not chip. So if you're doing deep
cuts you want to cut a bit, pull the tool back, then cut a bit. Then
you'll get small chips that won't start wrapping around your spindle.
4. Table-sawing - Some thicker pieces of UHMW will start to curl
back into themselves on long cuts, which will tend to bind the saw.
You can prevent this by putting small wedges in the end of the boards
to keep them open.
5. Bandsawing - See # 4 above in spades. A friend of mine put an
impressive kink in his bandsaw blade when he tried to crosscut a 7"
diameter piece by grabbing either end and pushing it through the blade.
He made it about 3/4's of the way through when the ends of the plastic
came together, grabbed the blade and stopped it dead in about 1/10th of
a second. If you have to resaw by bandsaw, use wedges.
6. Routing. - No special problems because routers make their own
chips. I advise against using router mats because the plastic is so
7. Surface planing/jointing - Again, no special problems.
A special note of caution. If UHMW ignites, it smells like candles
buring, but the drippings are NOT wax. They will burn through your
skin right to the bone and keep buring until the fuel is exhausted.
Hurts like hell and you're talking 3rd degree burns. So be careful.
Hope that helps.
I have machined UHMW,NYLON,DELRIN,HDPE,POLYCARBONATE every day for 15 years.
It is not uncommon for UHMW to come from the factory with a little warpage,
especially close to the edge of the sheet. UHMW sheets come to us from 1/8
thk thru 4" thk and are either 48 x 120 or 60 x 120 size.
We cut it with a CNC Schelling panel saw 18" dia blade 32 hp. I buy the
blades from Woodworker Supply and order Freud heavy body wood rip blades ,
actually P/N LM71M 16" dia 28 teeth works very well and are dirt cheap at
If you use a fine tooth blade on UHMW the shavings will be very stringy and
get wraped around things. Blade or cutters must be very sharp or any plastic
material will heat and induce some warpage possible closing behind the blade
as you cut it.
UHMW can kick back out of a saw worse than wood, before we got the CNC saw
workers would get hit from pcs coming out of the UNISAW at warp speed usally
hitting them in the family jewles. Never bring the cut pc over the saw blade
because if you drop it (very slippery material)on the blade UHMW is soft and
the blade grabs it very well and throws it back at you, Stand slightly to
the left so when this happens to you it will miss you and just put a hole in
the wall instead of you.
Use coarse tooth blade for UHMW use sharp blades or you could get hurt.
I'm rambling again sorry
UHMW has a tolerance of +/- 10% for thickness . This means .75 thk material
can vary +.075 to -.075 from the stated .75 anywhere in this sheet. I
rarely see a sht that is perfictley flat we use the next higher thickness
and mill or route the surface on CNC routers and CNC mills to get flat
We only sell to commercial accounts unfortunately and we throw cutoffs of
this material in the garbage each and every day. We have collected 4ft x 4ft
x 4ft containers of it and tried to sell it to recyclers it but its not
worth the freight cost ,it would cost us more than they will pay per pound
to send it to them.
If your using it for a fence liner on the table saw you could joint and
plane it to get it flat. It does joint and plane very well, again use sharp
blades. The chips tend to get stuck in the jointer so have the compressed
air gun handy and have someone blow on the cutter head while you push the pc
over the jointer. USE a push block and take light cuts.
I will sign off now as this has stretched out longer than I intended.
Eric - If you're going to be ripping a lot of this stuff, I suggest
thin-kerf blades. I use 10" 24-tooth Freud red blades for thin
material. Above an inch in thickness, you'll want to be getting
flat-top teeth and get as agressive a ripping profile as you can find.
Eric - He's absolutely right about UHMW getting thrown by saws. I used
to get it thrown at me all the time (Usually in the gut). I have found
the best way to beat that is to cover the entire saw face with a sheet
of UHMW (I use 3/4") and I have designed sleds and special fences that
sit on top of the sheet. Since then the number of times the saw has
thrown pieces back to me is down near zero.
Eric - I have noticed a lot of material benefits from being surface
planed. We surface plane thicker materials if they have scratches or
Eric - That brings up a good point - We only use surface planers that
have back chip ejection ports. If your planer has a side ejection port
it could get clogged very quickly. I find that you have to check the
spaces beside the rollers frequently, as some of the material can get
As far as jointers go, it's going to help if your jointer has a
clear, straight path to eject the chips. I've recently bought a Jet
jointer with a stand and I'm going to have to remove the stand and make
another one because this thing has a little 4" hole to eject chips off
the side. Sucker's going to clog in about 10 seconds.
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